Original question from Quora:

How do I stop wanting to do everything?

I am quite good at various activities such as painting, photography. I am a CS major as well and very passionate about the study of it, but how do I focus on one thing instead of being distracted by so many others?

My Answer:

I’ve only ever found one way to stop wanting to do everything and I discovered the trick about a year ago.

So I’m an entrepreneur and I always have about 100 ideas rattling around in my head. I used to think all of them were brilliant and I needed to do something with them.

Over time I realized that even if I wanted to do something with every good idea I had, I often did very little with any idea I had. Seems contradictory doesn’t it?

Well, a little over a year ago I set out the goal to be a bestselling author. It’s an audacious goal, but I like to aim high. Mostly, I just wanted to call myself an author.

So I wrote a book. I think it turned out to be a good book and I’m proud of it. It took me months to write and edit the book until I was satisfied with it.

Along the way, something interesting happened.

By saying I wanted to be a bestselling author, I became less interested in pursuits that distracted from that singular idea. Everything else became less interesting.

It’s as if giving myself a single purpose allowed me to focus down and ignore things that didn’t get me closer to that singular goal.

That makes sense, but here’s the interesting part. Over time I realize that there is a 80/20 or more like 99/1 to my energy and enthusiasm.

I get very excited about a single project or idea and I will push forward until completion. When I’m excited, it’s easy to put the time and energy in.

Unfortunately, when I’m not excited or enthusiastic about something, it is difficult to bring my full capabilities to bear on any activity. I guess you could say I’m very all or nothing.

And so here is the hack I have about how to stop wanting to do everything…

Let yourself follow your enthusiasm. Give yourself over to it. If you are excited about a project, do that project and do it well.

When you work on what you are enthusiastic about, it gives you life and energy. That allows you to do great work.

It’s an important concept because long term enthusiasm puts other things into proper perspective.

Notice that I said long term enthusiasm. I don’t mean short term one off excitement of new things. I mean things that can hold your interest for a long period of time. It’s easy to get excited about something novel, but if you find something that gives you a prolonged enthusiasm, it will be amazingly easy to focus on that thing without effort.

So, what are you enthusiastic about that you keep coming back to?

-Brian

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